A couple of days ago, some of you might have caught wind of the little bru-ha-ha stirred up by an English, self-published author (forget the name) who had a big blowout with reviewers over her book on some message board somewhere (what was said isn’t important here). She said some fairly caustic, unprofessional stuff in a public forum. Basically, this gets you the kind of attention you don’t need as an author. I believe it inspired a bunch of people to go one-star her book over at Amazon. In case it isn’t completely obvious, don’t do this sort of thing, authors. You can seriously hurt career chances, and come on, we writers don’t seem crazy enough already?
But, I don’t bring this up to warn writers against spouting off against reviewers. It’s just a handy lead-in for the the fact that I got my very first bad review. Same day, few hours later, my very first good review. Actually they were both well-written reviews. The good/bad is referring to their opinion of the story. Do they help or hinder me? In general, probably not very much. If the source is trusted by a particular reader, it could gain me a few sales or lose me a few sales. The hope of course is that in the long run, I’ll pick up more readers instead of less. My initial reaction to the negative review was not anger though, as one might expect from us crazy writer-types. Initially, I wanted to apologize for having wasted their time. Some reviewers get books from publishers that they are obligated more-or-less to read and review (at least I think this is true). Honestly though, there’s no point in getting upset over the negative review.
First off, people are entitled to their opinion. That’s what a review is after all, a reader’s opinion about the book. You have to respect that. They are free to post away about why they hate this book or that book. Now, one might take issue with how the reviewer decided to state their opinion, but you have to respect their point of view. It’s not a personal attack. You can’t afford to take it personally, otherwise writers really would go crazy. A good reviewer will plainly state why they didn’t like a book. They didn’t like the characters, the voice, the plot, the editing, or whatever the case may be. Nowhere do they state, “I hate this writer as a person.” Reviewers have done this sort of thing, mind you, but this particular one did not. She was respectful and clear about why she didn’t like my book. Fair enough.
Later in the day yesterday, I came across another. Loved the story. Loved the main character. Loved the pacing. Basically, everything the first reviewer disliked about my story, this one liked. Go figure. Reading is such an utterly subjective experience. It certainly made me feel better, but that’s not really the reviewers job or worry. Their job is to express an opinion to other readers about books they’ve read, and do it in a way that is tactful and respectful. People who review books do it because they love them and want to pass that love along. They want to tell other readers about books they think are worth reading as well as those they do not. I suppose you could take issue with that point, and say, why bother posting reviews about books you don’t like? Why waste the time and effort to do so? If you’ve told someone you’ll review a book and say something about it, then you sort of have the responsibility to do so.
As an author, I know I’ll get both positive and negative reviews. I expect it. And I’m fine with it. Kind of goes with the territory of creating an artistic product. I have no business expecting everyone to like what I create. The only time I take issue, is when opinions turn personal. I’ll take issue with the, “you’re book is bad therefore you must suck” sort of mentality every time. I have the feeling that my book is going to be the sort where you either love it or hate it. There won’t be a lot of ‘meh’ feelings going around. That’s fine with me. Strong feelings are good. In the end, I just hope more people love Jackie, and her struggles, and the messes she gets involved in, and the world I’ve created for her where she can hopefully figure her life out.